Caring for Mom and Dad
The baby boomer generation is aging and living longer than previous generations. This is a good thing. But living longer also has challenges. Today’s families live all over the country, and sometimes, all over the world. There will come a time to care for elderly parents. Many people ask, “How do we know that Mom and Dad need help?” They also ask, “Then what do we do?”
How do we know?
Our parents raised us and took care of our needs. After we grew up, they provided a safety net for us so we could go out on our own and live our own lives. We can never forget what they did. We want to help them, but how do we know when the time is right?
Every person grows older differently. Some manage by themselves. Some need help with shopping and laundry. Some have difficulty doing even the smallest task. The key is to watch and talk about what Mom and Dad need, before they need help.
The best time to ask is when Mom and Dad are thinking about retirement. Very few can predict when help will be needed. The key is to plan ahead. Ask the hard questions. “If one of you gets very ill and the other cannot be a caregiver, what do you want us to do?”
Whatever Mom and Dad say it is your job to make certain their answers are realistic. What does that mean. If they say, “Oh that will never happen to us!” that is an unrealistic answer. None of us know what the future will bring. So, you need to continue.
Say “Really guys, don’t you always want to be together? You have friends, what places have they considered.” Begin the conversation.
At this point one of two things will happen. Hopefully they will start talking about retirement communities that they know about. You need to talk about location of these communities and cost, as well as the services provided. Everyone wants to be home until they die. Very few can do that safely.
Living at Home
Living at home, may be an option, if Mom and Dad are very well off financially, or if they have purchased long term care insurance to cover the costs. Long term care insurance can only be purchased, years before need.
If Mom and Dad can afford to stay home, remember they will need people to help them. They may need caregivers. They may need cleaning and laundry help. If they become seriously ill, they may need round the clock nurses. This type of care may cost tens of thousands of dollars each MONTH.
Lifetime care facilities are designed with multiple options. Independent living while Mom and Dad are fine. Assisted living, when they need more help. Nursing home, when they need a lot of help. Memory Care if they have some form of dementia.
The nice thing about lifetime care is they can always be together in the same place. Mom may continue to live in the Independent living apartment while Dad is in the nursing home. Mom can either walk to the nursing home, or a golf cart can take her there.
There are places you can purchase. The buy ins can be very expensive. There are places you can rent. The monthly costs run $6,000 to $10,000 per month, based on where you live.
Plan a Meeting
As soon as the first conversations with Mom and Dad are over, it is time to plan a family meeting about elderly parent care. Everyone in the family group needs to be involved. We want to make certain that the lines of communication are always open. For example, we don’t want people to realize the long ordeal of end of life for Mom or Dad, at the funeral. Everyone needs to know, now.
Listen to Each Other
Make a plan. Visit different places. Be reasonable about costs. Be reasonable about who in the family can REALLY provide 24-hour care to an elderly parent. Think about it. It takes an entire staff at a nursing home to care for elderly people. Is it reasonable to believe that a sibling can quit their job, and take over a 24 hour a day job? No. It is not reasonable.
If a family member volunteers to quit their job to take care of Mom and Dad, then they will need to be paid a reasonable salary. Are you equipped?
Listen to each. Speak frankly about what is going on. You may not always agree, but you do all agree to do what is best for Mom and Dad. This kind of conversation is difficult and emotional. That is just fine.
Keep Everyone Informed
The biggest problem I see every day in my practice is the lack of communication between family members. Your sibling doesn’t know, unless you tell them. Your sibling does not have a crystal ball, and neither do you. Go with your gut.
If you feel tension at the meeting…there is tension. The best way to diffuse tension is open and honest communication.
You won’t agree about everything. But you will still be able to work together.
Go to See Your Trusted Advisor
As the attorney, I can see the problems from a different point of view. I have many families with elderly parent care over the years. There is no such thing as too much information. Make an appointment with your estate planning attorney today to discuss these challenges and to help you get on the right path to helping Mom and Dad. Are you on the right path?
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